Parmesan Two Ways: Eggplant and Chicken

Got back from vacation recently, and while I love eating out, I really missed cooking. So our first night back I went all out on an Italian meal. As I’ve said before, half of my family are vegetarian (technically pescatarian), and half are omnivores. I never want to make my omni husband and daughter feel like I am forcing them to eat vegetarian all of the time, so I often whip up 2 versions of the same dish.

In this case, it was parmesan. Yum.

Preparing the Eggplant

For this recipe, I always start by “sweating” the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into 1/4″ rounds, sprinkle with salt on both sides, and let sit in a colander or on a rack for about 30 minutes. This removes some of the moisture and bitterness. I know many people who skip this step and don’t see any ill effects. But since I want my eggplant to be super crispy, I always take the extra time for this.

Breading

Whenever I cook two versions of a dish – one meat, one veg – I try and make the base of the recipe as similar as possible. So, for this recipe I use the same 3 step breading mixture for both the eggplant and chicken. I have a big stack of identical shallow plastic bowls in my pantry. I have no idea where they came from, but they are perfect for food prep like this.

I really like this 3 step breading process: dip in flour first, then egg, then breadcrumbs. This helps the breading stick so well. I start by breading the eggplant. This is important for 2 reasons. First, it prevents cross contaminating the eggplant with any bacteria from the raw chicken. And second, the eggplant takes the longest time to cook, so I get that going first.

Cooking tips

Don’t feel like you have to add any oil or cooking spray to the eggplant baking sheet if you are using parchment paper. These little beauties shouldn’t stick and will come out perfectly crispy.

Feel free to add a minute or two of baking time to the eggplant if they aren’t golden brown.

Don’t crowd your skillet when frying your chicken. Batch cooking is better.

If you don’t want to cook both eggplant and chicken, you can double up on either. Just use 2 eggplants or 2 lbs of chicken breast cutlets.

I served this with whole grain spaghetti tossed with a quick tomato sauce (I’ll post this recipe as well), and some fresh Italian bread.

Parmesan Two Ways:
Eggplant and Chicken

Prep Time: 50 min      Cook Time: 50      Total Time: 1 hour 40 min
Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 large Eggplant, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
  • 1 lb. thin sliced Chicken Breast Cutlets
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup Italian Breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese, 
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese + 2 Tbsp.
  • 1 24 oz. jar Marinara Sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Place eggplant rounds into a colander or on a rack set over a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and let set for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Get 3 shallow bowls. Add flour to one, eggs to the second, and breadcrumbs with 2 Tbsp. of parmesan cheese to the third.
  4. Start with the eggplant. Dip each round into the flour, then into the egg, finishing with the breadcrumb mixture. Place on baking sheet.
  5. Bake eggplant rounds for 10 minutes, then flip and bake for 10 minutes more. The eggplant should be golden brown and crispy.
  6. While the eggplant is baking, prepare the chicken. Rinse cutlets and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Using remaining breading mixture, dip chicken into flour, then eggs, and finally breadcrumb mixture.
  7. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry chicken until golden and crispy (4-5 minutes each side), adding more oil as needed. Place cutlets on the second baking sheet.
  8. Remove eggplant from oven. Top eggplant and chicken with marinara sauce, then parmesan and mozzarella cheese divided equally among the portions.
  9. Bake 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.
  10. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil and serve with pasta and some nice fresh bread.

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